If you told me five years ago that I’d be in all my dance mom glory preparing for recital, I’d have given you some serious side-eye. My daughter? Pssht. No glittery costumes and tights shall cloak her bottom on my watch. Not to mention our Heavenly Father didn’t bless this mess with one ounce of rhythm, and I’m fairly certain these things are hereditary. And because, well — dance moms sort of get a bad rep. You’d be straight lying if you said you weren’t imagining uber blond middle-aged mamas with hairspray for days and blinding bling adhered to every possible square inch of their midsections, hooting and hollering from the auditorium.
But hear me out. I was wrong, and you might be, too. I’m hear to publicly apologize for all the things I said when I was naive to all the positive things the dance life has to offer.
On the surface, the repetitive movements involved in dance improve muscle tone, flexibility, and balance. They improve body awareness and coordination. But more important, dance teaches my daughter women need other women, and girls need other girls. It boosts her self-esteem. It gives her the chance to watch girls building one another up rather than tearing each other down. Dance increases her awareness of relationships with both peers and teachers, as well as social expectations.
It teaches her to share the limelight — to have her moment on stage and then seamlessly join the audience in support of her friends. It teaches her about commitment and hard work, even when it isn’t the most fun option on the docket. It teaches her humility and self-acceptance, because she may be better then some, but she isn’t the best. But isn’t that life, friends? We can always hone our craft, but there will always be someone with an edge on us.
It’s taught me the value in trusting other people to nurture my daughter. To let go of preconcieved notions and allow my personal experience to be my guide. And nothing compares to the sense of pride bursting through my mommy veins when I see my sweet, shy little girl on stage in front of hundreds of people.
Every Saturday morning for the past three years, we wake up early to attend class. During these years, she developed sweet friendships with her classmates. And I’ve bonded with their mamas, though reluctantly at first. I’m not going to fib — in the beginning, I hid behind my Kindle with a latte and all but wore a sign proclaiming “I AM NOT ONE OF YOU. DON’T TALK TO ME.” But three years in, and I have grown to look forward to Saturday mornings with my fellow dance moms. We look out for one another’s girls. We share tips about how to get a perfect high bun with NO WISPYS. We trade tips about preserving the life expectancy of those pricey convertible tights and the best way to keep the red lipstick off of the teeth (Vaseline). We take turns bearing the stage mom responsibilities for recitals. Ryann is invested in her little community, and so am I.
But perhaps the most important and wonderful thing about dance is the incredible teachers. Can we just take a minute to bow our heads in praise for those endlessly patient, miracle-working dance instructors? I mean, gaaaaaawd. I don’t know how they turn August’s leotarded little beasts into May’s poised showstoppers, but they do. EVERY SEASON.
I want my daughter to be surrounded by positive female role models. I want her to understand that women can do anything. That, in fact, women can excel in a variety of ways. Ryann’s teacher is full of poise and grace, not to mention incredible talent. She is well-spoken and articulate, kind and compassionate. She is gentle but firm with the girls, and the respect they show her is a testament to this carefully maintained balance. She is a lovely teacher, who strikes what seems to be an impossible balance between allowing the girls to have fun while learning technique. Quite simply, my daughter adores her.
And Miss Destiney can teach her things I cannot. Sure, she can model a perfect arabesque and help her to float her arms gracefully. She can teach her shuffle step and plie, while I can barely teach her the electric slide. (Do people still do the electric slide? Is that a thing? I fear I’m showing my age with this reference, but whatever.)
But seriously — she also teaches her about perseverance and discipline, and how hard work will yield results. She coaches her to be confident enough to take the stage and perform with focus and grace. She hones her ability to follow directions, to be patient with her peers.
So, if you’re on the fence about enrolling your little one in dance, just hop off the fence and sign her up for a trial class. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed by #DanceMom life, here are a few insider tips:
- Give it a full season before deciding to turn in your tap shoes . . . even if your tiny dancer tells you she wants to quit. There are Saturday mornings when neither of us wants to hightail to the studio, but we both enjoy it when we get there.
- You don’t HAVE to use the make-up. I was adamant my daughter would not wear harlot-esque makeup on stage during her first recital. But when we arrived backstage and everyone else was in full make-up, she pleaded with me for a makeover. I gave in, and all was well.
- Find a teacher you trust, and then listen to her. It’s just that simple. I’ve got nothing on Miss Destiney when it comes to dance, so I follow her instructions like a little lemming. We do as she says, and she’s never steered us wrong
- Know you don’t have to be all in from day one. The Family Dream Center offers non-recital classes, recital classes, and a variety of competition options. You get to decide the degree to which dance infiltrates your home.
- Get ready for glitter. All the glitter.
- You don’t have to wear any bling. It’s optional, I swear.
Try it. And if you need to hide behind your latte and your Kindle for the first few weeks, you’re all right by me. I get it.